Glamping with Staples InTents

By Dawn Thornton

When I was in the single digits, growing up outside of Pinehurst, North Carolina, I was a Girl Scout, selling cookies and camping once a year. Our idea of camping was a drab cabin in the woods with thin sleeping bags, no showers, and minimal electricity. WiFi didn’t exist then so that wasn’t a worry. Fast forward a few decades and the idea of roughing it in the wilderness and fumbling with a flimsy tent has evolved into “Glamping” at semi-upscale campsites and becoming one with nature while realigning with your purpose.

If you can’t guess what glamping is, it’s the unconventional idea of glamorous camping. We’re talking framed shelters, cushioned cots, smart sleeping bags, portable projectors for movie-watching, hot showers, candle lanterns or string lights, and even grills and stoves to cook or warm your favorite meals.

Couple Sonya and Nekota Staples of Staples InTents have become glamping gurus over the past five years, making it their mission to “put Black faces in dope places.” Fostering a community of minority campers where there usually are none has become their passion project, to say the least. Although their newfound lifestyle wasn’t intentional, it was absolutely necessary.

I can tell Sonya has told the story of their marital rebirth a few times, but it probably becomes more meaningful with each passing year.

“We had gone to a marriage counselor because we were on the verge of divorce. And the counselor told us that we’d have to say yes to something the other wanted to do, no matter what it was,” Sonya explains.

In 2016, Sonya embarked on a camping trip with a dear friend and she enjoyed it so much that she later asked her husband of 12 years (at the time) to accompany her on the next one. Nekota admits he begrudgingly said yes. And everything that could go wrong, did. As an optimist and a partner who wanted to change the course of her relationship, Sonya gave Nekota a valuable suggestion: “You can choose to be happy.”

Sonya explains, “It was a metaphor for where we were on the trip but more importantly, where we were in our marriage.” Nekota realized it was a turning point for him.

“What happiness looks like is a choice,” he says.

Fortunately for both, Nekota took his wife’s suggestion and the two have been blazing trails, literally, ever since. From the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, to the country of Colombia, the Staples document their lives on YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram via @StaplesInTents, as well as on their blog They can be found loving the land, often treating themselves to lobster, gourmet dishes, and other delicacies while educating the masses on how to begin their own journey.

When I mentioned my fear of sleeping openly in the wilderness and potentially getting eaten by a bear or hacked by a crazed hippie, they gave a few tips to help ease my nerves.

“Start at state parks first. That’s probably the best way to go. Typically, those have park rangers that will patrol, so they’re more secure. They also have pretty good cell signals,” says Sonya.

Those who can’t bear to live without electricity, hot showers, and clean restrooms can be accommodated as well. Many state parks offer these amenities in addition to grills and firepits for cooking and roasting.

“Glamping is essentially thriving. Camping is strictly surviving,” explains Nekota, who has worked for the federal government for 19 years as an engineer. The two started out just camping but realized glamping would be a more enjoyable experience.

In August 2020, during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, Sonya, who works in quality assurance, decided it was time for a lifestyle change and took the leap to begin growing Staples InTents as a viable brand, full time. More importantly, she now uses her time a little wiser these days.

“To watch her be intentional about her self-care is great. She wakes up and goes on a walk, she cares for her plants, and just takes care of her,” says Nekota. Sonya has completely transitioned to managing their social media presence and growing their audience base. She also mans their sister IG page, @BlackPeopleOffRoad, to create a community amongst other Black people who like off-road vehicle excursions.

Soon, Nekota, plans to join her so they can live off the land and expand their brand, full time together. If you’re exploring the world of glamping and ready to get your feet wet, any of their social media outlets would be a great place to start.


Photo by Robert Patterson (IG @justcallmetre)